More then 9000 were in attendance on Tuesday for Kuwait vs Korea Republic. Those there, predominantly in red turned the fixture into a quasi home game for the Taeguk Warriors.
In an uneventful and tame first 20 minutes Kuwait looked to be capable of matching the Koreans, who were fielding a first eleven minus a number of starters from their Asian Cup opener.
Creative midfielder Aziz looked to be the outlet for Kuwait with a couple of maizy runs from midfield. Unfortunately Aziz was also responsible for some errant passes as Kuwait struggled to maintain meaningful possession the longer the half went.
In the 25th minute some sloppy work by Jang allowed Yousef to pounce and the two were shoulder to shoulder heading into the box. Jang already cautioned did enough to force a poor first touch from Yousef, and the danger was averted.
The incident proved to be a turning point, minutes later Lee, Keun Ho was staring down goal with a one on one opportunity after a Kuwaiti opponent was dispossessed. The former Gamba Osaka forward’s lob tapped over the bar.
But the Koreans would get their go ahead goal in the 36th minute. It was via what could be called a Korean cliche – another Cha Du Ri wing raid. Nam Tae Hee flew through a pack of blue shirts to make it one nil, with his head.
The second half got underway in the same inclement conditions but the action was at maximum contrast settings. Kuwait were ready to take risks with their Asian Cup lives on the line.
Midfielder Ali Almaqseed was first to raise the question with his shot that rattled the woodwork. A free kick moments later sailed on by the Korean defence the saving grace being that their Kuwaiti opponents were caught off guard, unable to poke home what should have been an equaliser.
The pulsating second half saw both teams with multiple chances, the Koreans wasteful when they surged into the attacking third with extra men. But the highlight of the match was the courageous performance of Aziz.
The midfielder winning a number of free kicks and playing himself to a stand still with step overs, and evasive dribbling. Teammate Almaqseed was just as inspirational though at one stage his enthusiasm bubbled over into a reckless foul on Ki.
For Korea Republic the match will raise questions about their defence as they were regularly prised open through the centre of the field. And their finishing will also come under scrutiny, no doubt they’ll head into their final group match against Australia with a stronger first eleven.
For Kuwait, Oman must spring an upset against the Socceroos tonight, before the blues then face their Gulf rivals on Saturday in Newcastle. Korea Republic 1-0 Kuwait.